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Dec 22, 2010 | 21:45 GMT

2 mins read

U.S. Senate Ratifies START Treaty

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The U.S. Senate ratified the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (known as START) by a 71-26 vote Dec. 22. The agreement reduces the deployed strategic warheads of each country to 1,550. The treaty has received intense attention during the past week, as it was unclear if the Senate could even get enough votes to discuss the issue — though many Republicans in the U.S. government have blasted the agreement since its arrangement between Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and U.S. President Barack Obama in April. The START Treaty has been a bellwether of relations between Moscow and Washington. In the spring, it was a sign of warming sentiments between the countries. Since then, Russia and the United States have struck a slew of compromises on issues like sanctions against Iran and U.S. investment in Russia's modernization efforts. However, Moscow has publicly stated over the past few months that if START was not signed by the end of the year, it would consider relations between Russia and the United States as cooling. Thus, Obama has been trying to pressure those standing in the treaty's way — mainly Republicans — to sign. As Russia has watched the Senate debate the treaty, it has been most concerned about the possible addition of amendments that would increase U.S. inspections, lower the cap on nuclear weapons or even add topics not really relevant to the treaty, like the U.S. moving forward on ballistic missile defense. This last issue is the most important to Russia, as it would most likely put U.S. defense on Russia's doorstep. On Dec. 21, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned that any such amendment would be a deal-breaker, since the treaty cannot be opened up to new negotiations. The treaty passed by the Senate does not have any of these non-binding amendments, but it does have addendums regarding the Senate's concerns. The addendums have no bearing on the treaty itself, but the question remains of how Russia will view the addendums. Since they are not actual amendments to the treaty, Russia likely will sign START within weeks, as the treaty has already been debated in the State Duma. But the Russian Foreign Ministry has already announced that it will have to take a fresh look at what the U.S. Senate actually ratified.

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